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What Challenges Do Unemployed Individuals Face?

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Losing your job represents one of life's biggest setbacks. Although unemployment may give you an opportunity to start a new career or pursue a long-standing interest, it presents personal, social and economic hardships that grow in severity the longer your job search continues. You must deal with change that permeates every aspect of your life and uncertainty about the future.

Emotional Trauma

When you tie your identify to your work, your self-esteem takes a hit after a job loss. You have to make a conscious effort to stay positive and confident as you search for another position, not an easy task. You also battle internal demons when unemployed: You feel you no longer belong, contribute to society or provide for yourself or family. New Jersey psychotherapist Diane Lang told CNN that embarrassment about not having a job often leads people to avoid socializing, which, in turn, can trigger health issues such as depression. Coping with rejection and perceived age or experience discrimination during a job search challenges your sense of worth.

Staying Healthy

Being unemployed puts you at a higher risk for depression, diabetes and hypertension, according to Dr. Robert L. Leahy, director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy. Although job searching consumes your days, you need the self-discipline to schedule stress-reducing breaks for relaxation and exercise. Combined with eating balanced meals, finding time to exercise can help you sleep better, look your best and boost your confidence.

Career Choices

Finding a job becomes your focus when unemployed, but job-search challenges can give you a career wake-up call. For example, if you worked in an industry that is downsizing, you may have to accept the need to switch careers. Navigating the electronic application and candidate-screening systems used by employers is also a challenge, especially for first-time, older unemployed workers. Being open-minded about the types of jobs you would consider doesn't always help you overcome differences between your skills and experience and available positions, or being viewed as overqualified. Accepting seasonal or part-time work to tide you over presents the challenge of giving this temporary employment a positive spin that won't jeopardize your chances for a higher-paying post.

Changes in Family Dynamics

Unemployment brings uncertainty, which breeds stress. Families must adjust to a new lifestyle that excludes paid activities and restaurants and revolves around new routines. For example, the unemployed breadwinner no longer leaves the house each day and a once stay-at-home parent may enter the workforce on a part-time basis to provide income. Children of parents who lost their job may internalize their fear, resulting in health and school-performance issues. Couples face changes in their relationship that affect their expectations and accepted roles in addition to added financial pressure that challenges their ability to survive such a life-changing event.

Balancing Finances

Managing a household budget with little or no income may be the biggest challenge unemployment causes. Missing payments or paying late can lower your credit score, a factor some employers consider before offering a job. You may have to swallow your pride to negotiate payments with creditors. Lost health insurance poses an additional burden; premiums for individual or COBRA -- Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act -- coverage through your former employer strain cash flow, yet without it, a medical emergency spells financial disaster.


Trudy Brunot began writing in 1992. Her work has appeared in "Quarterly," "Pennsylvania Health & You," "Constructor" and the "Tribune-Review" newspaper. Her domestic and international experience includes human resources, advertising, marketing, product and retail management positions. She holds a master's degree in international business administration from the University of South Carolina.

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